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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

How 6 Professional Women Set Social Media Boundaries

August 17, 2018 | Filed in: Your Career

Social media can be a great way to promote a business, a welcome break during a hectic day, or a method for integrating more beauty, humor, or knowledge into our lives. It can also inspire envy, become a major time suck, and just plain make us miserable. Earlier this summer, we asked women to share how they view their working relationship with social media. This time, we wanted to hear about setting social media boundaries—at work and otherwise. 

1. The woman who knows her audience

“The biggest part of my job at National Geographic is figuring out how to integrate sponsors into our various social accounts, without annoying our followers or losing people. You have to know your audience. It’s a skill that translates to my own personal social media presence: People who follow me on LinkedIn are going to be way more receptive to posts about how many Webby Awards we were just nominated for than the folks back home who follow me on Facebook and really just want to see personal updates and not career-centric humblebrags. I think there are basic boundaries to think about when using social media: If you’re using your Instagram account for frequent personal updates (drunken weekend photos, political opinions, etc.), you should probably set it to private. Meanwhile, since LinkedIn functions as a digital résumé (and you never know when a recruiter will come knocking), keep it public, but only post things that you’d be comfortable having the CEO of your company read.”

—Amanda Waas, VP of Client Solutions, Digital & Social at National Geographic; New York, NY  

2. The woman who pictures her family reading everything

“I try to use social media in the truest sense: socially. Everything I do is a reflection of me: my interests, values, likes and dislikes, and so on. My general rule of thumb is that if what I’m posting is something I’m okay with my whole family seeing—my dad is a very active Facebook user—then I’m good to go. I’m of the generation that has had social media my entire adult life. I had a revelation early on that anything I do on social media will follow me throughout my life, so I’ve always tried to engage with it in a way that does not require me to do deep-dive cleanups. It’s always helpful before hitting ‘post’ to reflect on whether what I’m about to share will be a fun memory when it pops up in my notifications 10 years from now, or be completely cringe-worthy.”

—Lauren Reese, Communications and Marketing Manager at George Mason University; Washington, D.C.

3. The woman who’s not crazy about blurred lines

“As a travel marketer, it’s critically important that I stay connected and engaged through social media, as it allows me to stay abreast of news and trends and keeps me up-to-date with what’s happening—not only in my industry, but the world. However, from a personal perspective, I find it becomes more and more difficult to know which message to post to which platform, as the audiences between them seem to have become more blended than they were just a few years ago. Personal platforms and professional platforms have merged, and I am still finding my comfort zone there. I don’t have any hard and fast social media rules, but I am an optimist, so my posts, whether personal or professional, are always positive. I want to share something that brightens people’s day and has good energy.”

—Tania Armenta, President and CEO of Visit Albuquerque; Albuquerque, NM

4. The woman who keeps it exclusively professional

Social media has become a force in our world—one that can push us or pull us in and out of emotional slumps and professional dead ends. I have had countless conversations with friends about the positive and negative effects of social media. So many people I follow post on a wide variety of topics: political messages, personal reflections, and moment-to-moment coverage of their professional endeavors. I mostly use Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, where I’ll share an image of something I find inspiring, a view at the end of a walk in the mountains, or a photo of a kitchen triumph. Then there is the occasional self-promotional clip—an article I was featured in, or a photo taken of me for a story. 

With that said, there is one area I steer almost completely clear of when it comes to my social media presence—and this is my personal life, my house, my family, and my every waking thought. There needs to be more separation between personal and professional promotion. As a close friend put it, posting a photo of your toddler doing something cute on your restaurant’s Instagram handle is grabbing the low-hanging fruit. My home life is sacred to me. I have a separate account that I use for myself, mostly followed by friends and family, to show them photos of my dogs or of my home. Strangers, diners, and prospective customers do not need to see my personal life, and frankly, I don’t really want them to. I have grown to understand how necessary a certain amount of separation is for me, and for them.”

—Elise Kornack, chef; Woodstock, NY                                                    

5. The woman who steers clear of most of it

“Social media is not my thing; I am that embarrassing friend that has to ask how to post an Instagram story. I do not have a personal Facebook page, nor will I ever.  I love to scroll through Instagram and Snapchat, but I rarely post anything. I am a very private person when it comes to business. I do not accept any customers or co-workers as friends on my social media, and I do not list anywhere what company I work for or what my job entails (outside of LinkedIn). I am a firm believer that my customers who know me as a polite young professional do not need to see pictures of me at a friend’s bachelorette party. This is not saying there are things to hide; I just enjoy the freedom of keeping work at work and home at home, without the whole world seeing pictures of both.”

—Kristi Buckholz, VP of Global Accounts at WEST Forwarding; Westlake, OH

6. The woman who always prefers an email to a DM

“I’m a really active social media user and was even before it was a part of my job. Instagram, in particular, has been incredibly important. I spend a lot of time looking at what sort of work photographers are putting out, searching for new talent and seeing what is new or interesting in the visual world. On my own Instagram, I tend to post a careful curation of engaging images and photos that give a sense of who I am (but not too much!). I see my Instagram as a visual public diary, but the false sense of intimacy of the platform has created a problem with more inexperienced photographer, who will sometimes direct message me with professional requests. Social media is not the space for making appointments or sending pitches. I have a very easy-to-find email address! I have been in situations where I am desperate to get in touch with someone and they don’t have the appropriate information on their website, or I think my messages might be vanishing into the ether from their ‘contact me’ form. In that case, I reached out to people on social media—but it was my last resort.”

—Leonor Mamanna, photo editor by day, newsletter writer by night; New York, NY